Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the anti-Putin Bolotnaya Square protests, which have led to numerous arrests and indictments of Russian opposition figure. The theme of this year’s demonstration was solidarity with these political prisoners. Below is a speech delivered by the Russian novelist Boris Akunin. –Ed.
If the court trials that have already begun and those which are just about to start end up with prison sentences, then that means Russia will become a police state, where the opposition will be spoken to only in the language of arrests and prison. In that connection, I want to here and now publicly appeal to prominent people with good reputations, to those to whom many look, and whom are trusted by many people.
The government will of course tell those people, “Calm down. We’ve isolated from society several dangerous trouble-makers, but we love you, we appreciate you, relax, don’t let it bother you, work calmly.”
[Interference on sound system]
So I want to appeal to prominent people with a good name, because in a situation of political oppression, much will depend on these people. I want to tell them:
You could, in a situation of an authoritarian government, for better or worse, somehow tell yourself about the theory of small deeds, that everything isn’t so bad, but if people will sit in prisons and that will be the basic rule of the game, no decent person can cooperate with such a government and should not. It is no longer called “cooperation”; it is called by the shameful word “collaborationism”.
Respected masters, please know that each time you are on the television screen in the same scene as a dictator, that means you support the dictatorship. Each time you will get honors, even merited, from the hand of the dictator, that will mean, that people will sit longer in prison because of you.
There can’t be any collaboration with a police regime for a decent person, that is completely out of the question.
I want to appeal to the wonderful well-intentioned liberals that work in the power structures and near-to-power structures. I want to appeal to those respected persons who sit on the presidential councils. If there is a police state, then leave this system, don’t tarnish yourself, let there remain in it only people who are thieves, boot-lickers and those with a bad reputation.
The faster the regime will fall that rests on arrests and prisons, the better for the country. I’m not a prophet, I don’t know how long the oppressive regime will last. But I know history very well, and I know how it ends exactly. Any government that has not been able to establish a dialogue with society, that has not preserved civic peace in the country will definitely collapse. Modern history doesn’t know any other options.